Helping birds keep their heads: Flashy cat collars aimed at saving songbirds
Bright colours on collars make cats more visible to the birds they're stalking, alliance says
Ginger, the cat, now wears a collar because he bit off a woodpecker's head.
The collar is a new product made available by the Petitcodiac Watershed Alliance and funded by the New Brunswick Wildlife Trust Fund.
The alliance says it hopes it can help solve an age-old problem: cats stalking birds.
"We're calling them clown collars," said project manager Jenna MacQuarrie. "They're sort of like clownish or Elizabethan if you could picture that."
According to an Environment Canada statistic, cats across the country kill about 200 million birds a year.
MacQuarrie said 80 million of those deaths are attributed to domestic cats that go outside.
The brightly coloured collars are now available for free at Global Pet Foods stores in Moncton and Dieppe, or through the Petitcodiac Watershed Alliance.
MacQuarrie said they were specifically designed to help songbirds see felines approach. The alliance even referred to a study done to find out which colours stand out to songbirds.
"You see a lot of blues and yellows and oranges, a little bit of green, too, in all of them." said MacQuarrie, adding that the collars come with a reflective trim that doubles as a way to make cats more visible to motorists.
While the best way to save songbirds is to keep cats inside, MacQuarrie said she knows that's not always possible.
Her own cat, Ginger, a former stray, now goes outside wearing a collar.
But what most people don't realize is that cats weren't always part of the Canadian ecosystem and act as an "invasive species," she said.
"They probably know that their cats do kill birds but they don't realize that that's not a natural thing," she said.
Danger for cat
Myrna Lamouroux, a former president of the SPCA, and caretaker of many strays, said she knows felines can be a danger for birds.
But she also worries about the collars.
"We had some sad stories come in with cats being caught with collars and caught on fences and one that got strangled, you know, I just worry about that," she said.
MacQuarrie said the watershed alliance is taking these concerns into account.
She also stressed that the important role of songbirds can't be understated.
"Birds play a big part in our local ecosystem," she said. "They do things like pollination, they control insect populations, which obviously people really enjoy if it's things like mosquitos. And some of them make habitat for other birds."